Parts of Derby city centre a 'dystopian vision of weed-strewn dereliction, beggars, drunks and addicts'

This post first appeared on Derby Telegraph. Read the original article.

These are desperately unsettling times. Terrorists use motor vehicles as weapons, the unholy mess of Brexit leaves us wondering where it will end, and if you woke up tomorrow to find that Donald Trump had threatened to bomb Toronto, you wouldn’t be entirely surprised.

Much closer to home we see parts of Derby’s city centre as a dystopian vision of weed-strewn dereliction, beggars, drunks and drug addicts turned into zombies.

Collecting a prescription from a pharmacy the other day – just a short walk from where I was born – I feared the worst when two drug addicts began to argue over a needle exchange. The pharmacist was patiently trying to explain that an exchange meant he had to receive used needles in return. The situation became ugly and I didn’t blame the pharmacist for giving up and handing over new needles simply to get the two increasingly aggressive characters off his premises.

Later, there was an argument in the doctor’s surgery when a couple were told they couldn’t have the key to the lavatory. It was for patients only. It might seem mean to deny someone use of the toilet but the surgery had apparently experienced abuse of its facilities.

It is all becoming too much, and it is turning hitherto gentle, liberal-minded citizens into borderline extremists.

So much so that, after a drunk kicked out at police, spat at a nurse, and said he hoped an elderly cancer patient in the next hospital cubicle “died a long and painful death”, and I read a reader’s comment on this newspaper’s website to the effect that here was a good case for introducing euthanasia for such vile creatures, I found myself nodding in agreement, which was strange since I have always been an opponent of capital punishment.

A suspected drug user at the bus station, just a few yards from the River Gardens

This is the point. Even the most tolerant people can be turned if conditions affecting them are bad enough.

A while back I was taken to task when I said I couldn’t easily see where a reported £3billion of inward investment from various visits abroad by council representatives had benefited Derby. I was reminded about the 200 businesses at Pride Park, about Infinity Park and its iHub, new hotels, and much more.

I said that many people don’t feel that the achievements listed above have any impact on their lives. All they see are parts of Derby in a much worse state than at any time in their memory hitherto.

None of this new business affects them on a daily basis. Feeling uncomfortable walking along St Peter’s Street does. A suggestion for a centre for asylum-seekers in Peet Street has shaken residents.

Derby has never been perfect. There was once a power station next to the cathedral. But the town centre was a pleasant, safe, place, and you could walk into any chemist without fear of meeting a drug addict desperate for a new needle.